Clarke’s place in GB Paralympic football squad confirmed

HARPENDEN-BASED blind footballer David Clarke celebrated being selected for the GB Paralympic five-a-side team by making an appearance at Wembley during the Liverpool versus Everton FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

The British Paralympic Association this week announced that 22 footballers have been selected to represent ParalympicsGB at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Clarke was named alongside fellow south east footballers Martin Sinclair, from Camberley and Croydon’s Billy Thompson.

Expressing his delight at the prospect of competing at a home Games, Clarke said: “It is very difficult to describe my overwhelming emotion after learning of my selection for London 2012.

“The confirmation of my place in the squad is the realisation of a lifetime dream and a unique chance to compete at the pinnacle of my sport and on home soil in front of our own fans.

“From the moment I heard the remarkable announcement that London had been awarded the 2012 Paralympics, the journey to selection and competing at the Games has been my life.

“Selection is merely the start of the hard slog toward a medal, however, and the real work begins now to achieve what we all unanimously crave.”

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ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission Craig Hunter welcomed the footballers to the squad, he said: “I am very pleased to welcome the 22 footballers that we have announced to ParalympicsGB for London 2012.

“Their selection is undoubtedly the culmination of many years of hard work and I’d like to congratulate every one of them.

“Football is obviously a very popular sport in Britain, so I am confident that the British public will get behind these players and will seize the opportunity to find out more about the five-a-side and seven-a-side versions of the game.”

To celebrate the announcement five players, including David, took to the pitch at half-time during the FA Cup quarter-final between Liverpool and Everton, held at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, where the crowd gave them a rousing reception.

Of the two teams that will compete later this summer, 12 players will feature on the seven-a-side team, for players with cerebral palsy and 10 players have been selected as part of the five-a-side team, for players with a visual impairment.

Although neither team medalled at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, both squads have been developing throughout this Paralympic cycle, displaying a combination of Paralympic experience and emerging talent.

David and the five-a-side team won a bronze medal at the 2011 IBSA European Championships in Aksaray, Turkey.